One of the things that separates the Mack Bolan – Executioner series from the Nick Carter series is the back story running through the novels. Nick Carter’s adventures are nearly exclusively self-contained, and while the Executioner novels can be read as stand alone stories, it helps to have a vague idea of where the story is at. In this particular instance, having read Book No 62 – Day of Mourning, also by Stephen Mertz is a great boon, as this story follows directly on from it – with Bolan tidying up loose ends from that story – literally cleaning house.
Incidentally, for those who are curious, and have noticed that the story has skipped from Book No. 62 to Book No. 64, the 63rd in the series, is The New War Book – which flashes back to Vietnam and examines Bolan’s war against America’s enemies.
I have not read Day of Mourning, but it would appear that a team of mercenaries have attacked the Stony Man Farm complex – Bolan’s HQ – and killed many of the staff, including the love of Bolan’s life, April Rose.
So Mack Bolan spends the length of the novel seeking vengeance, and that has him rampaging around Washington tracking down those responsible, and delivering his own kind of justice. It’s also fair to say in this book, that Bolan – and I’ll keep calling him Bolan rather than John Phoenix, for reasons I’ll explain a bit further down – has gone rogue. He’s off the range, tearing around, doing things his way without backup or government sanction behind him. And this is good. It gives the novel a gritty feel.
Dead Man Running also starts a new chapter in Bolan’s ‘war everlasting’. Rather than just seeking out ‘generic’ terrorists, he now choose to focus solely on wiping out the dreaded KGB, and in this story he takes on a corrupt Soviet official stationed in Washington. But the book doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Author, Stephen Mertz knows what has made the character of Bolan popular – so he has the KGB official in cahoots with the local mob. So no only is the KGB after Bolan, but a swag of swarthy Mafia hitmen.
When Bolan starts taking out the mob in his inimitable way, people with long memories start to question if Phoenix is in fact Mack Bolan – The Executioner. Of course, the reading public know the answer to this question, but by the end of the novel (and this is a minor spoiler – but I am talking about a book written 25 years ago – in a series that continues to this day – so I don’t think my revelation is going to shock the world) – Bolan tosses aside his Phoenix persona. He is now just Mack Bolan.
Dead Man Running is everything a Mack Bolan Executioner book should be. It’s fast paced, brutal and entertaining, but at the core a story the reader is interested in seeing resolved. There is also for the committed fans of the series, a healthy dose of Bolan lore – and while I’d stop short of saying that this is one of the key books from this era of The Executioner – because Bolan returns to the Stony Man fold, but it presents a good deviation from the formula – for a short while anyway.
From the back:
Mack is back with a vengeance!
Mack Bolan returns from Russia to find the CIA has lifted its liquidation mandate. He is granted a stay of execution – for twelve hours.
But no one can stay The Executioner’s hand as he sets out on his mission of revenge in Washington. His target: a KGB mole responsible for the attack on Bolan’s base and the death of his greatest love, April Rose.
Not only has the Soviet spy penetrated the inner circle of the U.S. President, but Bolan finds Moscow’s Department of Terror in bed with his oldest enemy – the American Mafia.
The Stony warrior rains a hellstorm of death on the midnight streets of D.C., ending in a stunning climax at the oval office.
The Executioner is in the city of lies. And he has come to spill blood – drop by treacherous drop.
The Executioner books aren’t high-end literature by any stretch of the imagination, so any suggestion that this is a fine book, obviously lives within the parameters of The Executioner series and this style of genre fiction, but for my money (and you can pick these up pretty cheap these days), Dead Man Running was a punchy little thrill-ride.